Our twisted culture dictates that conversation over Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns' tremendous opening-round playoff victory over the Los Angeles Lakers be turned into a referendum on LeBron James and those who support him with vigor. As it became clear that the reigning champions were outmatched and dead-in-the-water in last night's Game 6, there was renewed emboldenment to dunk on either the best or second-best player in NBA history for missing the Finals twice in an 11-year span. And to rub salt in the wounds of Nick Wright, arguably James' biggest public advocate.
Some may have wondered if he'd take a sick day to avoid taking medicine. But that's not Wright's style. He is very much on the set of First Things First, soldiering through what must have been a fitful and short night of sleep.
Perhaps to the dismay of those who want to bask in the moment, Wright's commentary on James has been level-headed, including an admission that this is the worst playoff series LeBron has played since the 2011 fiasco against JJ Barea and the Dallas Mavericks.
Which is undeniably true. Anthony Davis' injury was a death sentence but James has carried his teams through the valley of the shadow of death so many times in his career we expect miracles. It's worth conceding that there was simply not a 41-12-11 masterpiece in the 36-year-old's body this summer following the ankle injury. It's also worth wondering if a James-led team can ever expect that from him again.
There's really no shame in admitting reality here. James didn't play up to his incredibly high standard and his supporting cast was once again paper-thin at the wrong time. It's entirely possible that we've seen him hoist his final Larry O'Brien but anyone doubting him at this point is a masochist with a kink for being proven wrong over and over and over again.
This is undoubtably a valley in a storied career. Yet anyone with any perspective would concede the confluence of events that led here and conclude summiting the mountain two times in a calendar year on the most taxed body in all of sports was going to be an insurmountable hill.
No one likes a tepid take but sometimes accepting reality is the quickest way to acceptance. Certainly more productive than denial, anger, or bargaining.